Fowler Trapped in his (many) Comments

My mother always told me that if you just sit back and let some people do their thing long enough, that they will eventually trap themselves in all of the many words that they have used in the past.

Although it has probably become pretty obvious to you that I am not necessarily the “sit back type”, I also am not one to ignore the words of others. Other peoples’ thoughts, comments, and perspectives provide me the impetus to think critically and help create my own opinions and generate original thought.

Never one shy for the spotlight, one of the greatest things about Lee Fowler’s “leadership” at NC State is that he has never failed to give usmany, many words to evaluate. Usually, Fowler’s words are generally consistent and typically follow one of the following overall themes:
* Herb Sendek is great guy with great character
* Herb Sendek is highly respected by people in college basketball
* Herb Sendek will succeed
* Herb Sendek has been a great coach in the three years that he has coached at NC State
* Herb Sendek was Coach of the Year last year in the ACC
* The fiive years of your life from 1996-2001 simply did not happen since Lee Fowler didn’t live in Raleigh at the time.
* Lee Fowler doesn’t want (insert current or potential SEC or Ohio State) Athletics Director job that he has not yet withdrawn his name from consideration…and, of course…
* Lee Fowler “knows basketball”. (Fantastically, today we learned that Lee Fowler also “knows business” despite the fact that he has never worked outside of College Athletics.)

Today, some of Fowler’s past words are starting to close on him and are creating a difficult situation for a guy that loves to be right. (Heck, he probably loves to be right almost as much as he loves making his high salary that he will gladly share with you without you asking). Problem for Lee is that he can’t be “right” about something at the same time that he is admitting that he was wrong about it. And today, Fowler admitted that a past proclamation about Herb Sendek was incorrect. (Stop the presses. News at 11) —

In an interesting article in today’s Charlotte Observer (that is deserving of about a dozen different entries on StatefansNation), NC State Athletics Diector, Lee Fowler was quoted as admitting that:

“Herb has had a tough year,”

In its own right, that admission seems pretty fair, honest, and accurate. No problems there. I think most people appreciate candor. The problem for Fowler is that his admission today works in direct contradiction with much of the snake oil that he tried to sell in the past.

It was only four years ago that NC State’s Basketball program was facing similar debate as it is today as fans were exhausted in the wake of Herb Sendek’s failure to finish in the top half of the ACC or earn an NCAA Torunament berth four previous seasons before a fifth season that had turned disasterous.

Lee Fowler had been on the job for approximately 5 to 6 months and was determined to set the all-time NCAA record for career quotes given by an Athletics Director. In the midst of his Public Relations tour, Fowler chose to make a decision that had NEVER sucessfully been made in the history of major college basketball when he retained a coach that had not advanced to an NCAA Tournament or been impacted by NCAA probation in a consecutive five year period. (More on this interesting and unprecendented issue in the future).

So, on January 13, 2001, Charlotte Observer’s Gregg Doyel penned an article “Wolfpack Must Crawl Out of Hole”. (Does that one sound familiar?). In the article, Lee Fowler proclaimed to the world:

“I’m not saying I don’t care what (outspoken fans) think, but I’ve got a background in basketball, and you hear things about everybody. “The one thing I ask (of) Wolfpack fans is support your coach. Fans want a national championship. The way Herb’s doing things, when we do get there – and I don’t think it’s far away – it will stay there.

Hmmmmm…let’s replay these events in summary form:

* 4 years ago Fowler proclaimed that his opinion is that Herb Sendek will be successful as Basketball Coach of NC State. Although never offering a criteria or measurement used to define success, Fowler states that “once we have success, we will stay there for a long time.”

* 3 years pass where NC State’s earns NCAA Tournament berths and achieves some success…the levels of which are debateable (In 2 of the 3 seasons State entered the ACC Tournament in need of a victory just to qualify for the NCAA). During these three years, Fowler gleefully proclaims to the world how good of a coach Sendek is and not to forget that Fowler made the decision to keep him. Fowler goes so far as to reply to old emails that some NC State supporters had sent him years earlier attaching sarcastic comments wondering if the fan still felt that Herb was the wrong guy for the job?

* In a cruel twist of fate for Mr. I Told You So…NC State’s current basketball team is ranked #85 in the RPI as the 6th place team in the state of North Carolina (40+ spots behind Davidson). Today, Fowler admits that “Herb has had a tough year” despite having previously told the world that “once we have success that we will stay there.”

Unless Fowler defines “long time” as “1 year”, I think that we’ve got a big ooooops on our hands.

What’s the real deal, Fowler?

YOU SAID that “it wouldn’t be long.” YOU SAID that we were going to “stay there for a long time.”
YOUR comments and actions over the last few years clearly indicate that your opinion was that had “gotten there”. Have the last 3 years really been some glorious ‘top’ that we was “not that far away”?

Fess up, Fowler…How friggin far is ‘far’? How long of a time is a ‘long time’? And exactly where is ‘there’ that we are trying to reach. Because it certainly isn’t “National Championships” that you alluded to FOUR YEARS AGO in your comments.

At some point in the future…does anyone at NC State think that us as fans…you know, those of us who mysteriously lose half-decades of our lives (and financial contributions) in the snap of Lee Fowlers fingers…could be entitled to just a little bit of definition and clarity on some of this stuff?

To be fair…one has to be somewhat sympathetic for Fowler. I mean, who in the world could have ever foreseen this year’s events? It isn’t like Sendek has ever struggled in his three regular seasons at State before! (What is history good for, anyway?)

If only those “50 crazys on the internet” that actually realize that Herb Sendek had been coaching at State for NINE YEARS instead of just three, then Fowler would be home free!!! (I guess if you find a way to achieve the super human and completely ignore five years of life on this planet, then you can convince yourself of about anything.)

Come to think of it…Lee Fowler made his original comment about “staying at the top once we get there” in January 2001. With that in mind, we have to ask if Fowler really made the statement at all? I guess in his mind it doesn’t count since it was made prior to the 2001-2002 season (when life as we know it began).

See…Lee “I Know Basketball AND Business” Fowler wasn’t wrong at all. But, somehow you probably already knew that. I’m sure that he did.

(See you all later…I am off to Happy Hour to find a wife!! Evidentally, I never have really met the woman to which I am supposedly married since it happened in the “mystery years” prior to Lee Fowler’s move to Raleigh.)

Flashback General NC State Administration NCS Basketball Quotes of Note

5 Responses to Fowler Trapped in his (many) Comments

  1. BJD95 02/22/2005 at 7:37 PM #

    Maybe Scooby and the gang can get back together to solve the Mystery of the Missing Five Seasons. Come to think of it, who are the four women living in my house? The three youngest ones seem to bear some resemblance to me…

  2. JPS 02/22/2005 at 11:13 PM #

    I’d like to take issue with this one quotation: “Sendek doesn’t have the magnetic personality of football coach Chuck Amato or the late basketball coach, Jim Valvano.”

    Big FREAKING deal! The assumption is that NC State fans are suckers for flashy coaches. B.S. We like successful ones. Valvano won a National Championship, for crying out loud, and two ACC Titles. In 1987, NC State was on equal standing with UNC atop the ACC in league and national titles. Now look where we are.

    Chuck Amato has brought NC State football to new levels, too, although he has not won a title. I guarantee you, however, that it’s not the personality that endears Chuck — it’s the wins and promise of greater seasons ahead. Another season like the last, however, and everyone here will be complaining about the shoes and the sunglasses and the chest. Wins enhance the image, and make the image endearing — but the image is NOTHING without the wins.

    I remind the article writer of one Mr. Dick Sheridan. He was the antitype of Valvano. Quiet, demurring, too nice to dump 70 on Mack Brown when he could — and we loved him. Why? Not because of his personality, but because the man delivered. (It was a shame that FSU joined the conference the same year that Sheridan finally won the “old” ACC — he had the Pack on a steady upward projectory through the conference.)

  3. JPS 02/22/2005 at 11:24 PM #

    One other thing. The columnist also writes this: “It doesn’t help that N.C. State’s nearby ACC competitors — North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke — all are ranked in the top 10.”

    You know, it wasn’t too long ago that this same article said “It doesn’t help that N.C. State’s nearby ACC competitors — North Carolina and Duke — both are ranked in the top 10.” But then Wake Forest got tired of having a perennial bubble squad and forced Dave Odom into leaving and then hired themselves a new coach …

  4. Joe Jones 02/24/2005 at 9:34 AM #

    I have been a Wolfpack fan for a long time. I was even blessed to see some of Coach Case’s teams play. I am not one of the 50 freaks that keep the internet alive with “fire Herb” comments. The hosts of the talk radio stations don’t believe that the majority of Wolfpack fans are anti-Herb. I don’t know if there is any way to find out but I don’t know any Wolfpack fans that support Herb. I have been going to games for a long time but this year I have been giving my tickets away because I can’t stand to see the lack of effort on the part of the players and the poor job of coaching. Even when the Wolfpack has won this year they haven’t played really well. Herb is making almost a million dollars a year and is giving us a less than average team. I believe it is time for a change.

  5. Admin 02/27/2005 at 12:40 PM #

    Whole article for future use

    Posted on Tue, Feb. 22, 2005

    Will Herb Sendek survive?
    Constantly under pressure from fans, Sendek ignores critics

    N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler says he has a problem with N.C. State fans who send him e-mails and letters or approach him in person to criticize men’s basketball coach Herb Sendek.

    Fans favoring a one-way ticket out of Raleigh for Sendek are frustrated with the Wolfpack’s performance over nine seasons under the coach who will celebrate his 42nd birthday today.

    N.C. State has no ACC titles and zero trips beyond the second round of the NCAA tournament in three appearances in Sendek’s tenure.

    “I think it’s unfair to go back nine years,” said Fowler, “but it justifies their position, so that’s why they go back nine years.”

    Fowler, who has been at N.C. State since September 2000, has a different perspective. He asks you to imagine him as the leader of a sales team, with his coaches working as salespeople.

    He compares Sendek to a salesman who struggled a few years, then suddenly became a top performer for three years as N.C. State reached the NCAA tournament in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

    The Wolfpack (15-10, 5-7) might not make it four straight in 2005, and that’s why fans are angry again with Sendek. Fowler is more forgiving.

    “I don’t think a businessman would go back and say, `Well, you kind of are having a down year, so I’m going to fire you because of the first five years,’ ” Fowler said.

    Fowler won’t comment on whether Sendek, who has four seasons remaining on his contract, will return next season. He says he will evaluate Sendek at the end of the season, as he does with all of N.C. State’s coaches.

    But he speaks in glowing terms about Sendek, whose record is 163-118 at N.C. State heading into tonight’s home game against No. 2 North Carolina (22-3, 10-2). And Fowler knows basketball about as well as any athletics director in the ACC.

    He played on an SEC championship team at Vanderbilt in 1974 and was an assistant coach on a Memphis team that reached the Final Four in 1986.

    An engraved basketball in his office commemorates his service on the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, which he chaired in 2002. He admires Sendek most of all for his integrity, he said.

    With fans howling for his head, Sendek sat his best player, Julius Hodge, for the first 10 minutes of an 86-75 loss Feb. 10 at Wake Forest. Hodge had broken a team rule.

    “I think most people needing a win wouldn’t have done that,” Fowler said. “And Herb does do it because he thinks the rules are the rules and everybody on the team follows the rules.”

    `A tough area’

    Maryland coach Gary Williams was about to blast his team after its 82-63 loss Wednesday night at N.C. State.But first, he had something to say about Sendek, whose teams defeated the Terrapins twice by a total of 35 points this season.

    “Herb Sendek prepares his teams as well as anybody we play against,” Williams said. “He does a great job. He should get a lot more credit for what he does than sometimes he gets. This is a tough area down here.”

    Williams probably has no idea how tough. The following afternoon, a day after the Wolfpack posted its second straight victory, the primary topic of a Greensboro sports talk radio show was whether Sendek should be fired.

    Sendek received almost no support from N.C. State fans. In a recent online poll at, 86 percent of 1,371 votes said Sendek should not be retained.

    Taylor Zarzour, host of a morning sports talk show on WTSB-AM 1090 in Raleigh, said fans call to say that after nine years they don’t believe Sendek will take the program to a higher level.

    “I can count on one hand the number of people that call in and say, `Give him more time.’ It’s overwhelming” against him, Zarzour said.

    Sendek doesn’t have the magnetic personality of football coach Chuck Amato or the late basketball coach, Jim Valvano. His fear of providing opponents with bulletin board material and use of clichés (“one game at a time”) don’t win him points with fans or media.

    When N.C. State is winning, his 3.95 grade-point average from Carnegie Mellon is cited as an example of his genius. When the Wolfpack is losing, detractors question whether somebody that smart can connect with players, recruits and fans.

    It doesn’t help that N.C. State’s nearby ACC competitors — North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke — all are ranked in the top 10.

    “I think that all State fans want to have their team at the same level as Carolina, Wake and Duke,” Zarzour said. “And the fact that they don’t — and the fact that he has been here nine years — means to them that he’s not good enough.”

    Sendek can’t help but notice. Last season, a Web page ( was created to call for his ouster — before Sendek led the Wolfpack to a second-place finish in the conference and was named ACC Coach of the Year. The criticism, he said, comes with the job for all but a few coaches.

    “That’s probably where we are in our sports culture today,” Sendek said Monday. “I don’t know that those (critics) will ever be totally absent.”

    Hope rekindled

    Sendek readily admits disappointment in N.C. State’s season.

    Illnesses and injuries played a role. Point guard Tony Bethel (four games), senior forward Levi Watkins (seven and counting), second-leading scorer Cameron Bennerman (five) and Hodge (one) have been sidelined.

    The problem was at its worst in early January, when N.C. State lost to West Virginia and Miami.

    “Going into both of those games … we didn’t have enough guys to practice,” Sendek said. “Guys literally didn’t practice and then tried to play in games.”

    N.C. State’s effectiveness in its complex offense suffered. Freshmen Andrew Brackman, Gavin Grant and Cedric Simmons played more than expected.

    Hodge, last season’s ACC Player of the Year, became frustrated and tried at times to take over games by himself, with disastrous results. Despite all that, one correctable statistic bothers Sendek the most.

    N.C. State set an ACC record with a Division I-leading .799 free-throw percentage last season. Against Miami, Virginia Tech and Virginia — games lost by a total of four points this season — the Wolfpack shot 42-for-67 (62.7 percent) from the foul line.

    Sendek was frustrated with the foul shooting, and forward Ilian Evtimov said the players deserve some blame for shortcomings on defense. Evtimov said the Wolfpack didn’t play hard enough.

    “He kept telling us, kept telling us, but it has to come from us,” Evtimov said. “We’re the ones on the court. And unfortunately he has been taking a lot of heat for that. But the season is not over.”

    Back-to-back wins at Georgia Tech and against Maryland have rekindled hope for a strong finish by N.C. State. And Fowler sounds optimistic about the future.

    He already is wondering how many ACC opponents will lose juniors or sophomores to the NBA. Hodge, N.C. State’s best player, is a senior and will be gone next season.

    But North Carolina could lose three underclassmen (Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants) in addition to senior Jawad Williams. Georgia Tech will return zero starters if junior Jarrett Jack turns pro.

    Wake Forest won’t be the same team if sophomore Chris Paul doesn’t return, and Duke could lose two of its “big three” if junior Shelden Williams goes to the draft with senior Daniel Ewing.

    With three promising freshmen and its first McDonald’s All-America recruit since Hodge (Seton Hall Prep forward Brandon Costner), N.C. State appears in position to be competitive in the future.

    That bodes well for Sendek as Fowler looks ahead.

    “Herb has had a tough year,” Fowler said, “and there have been some reasons for it, and I can’t tell you how proud I am that he’s not a guy that gives up and he comes back and works harder the next day.”

    Ken Tysiac: [email protected]

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